Dressing with a chronic illness

Following on from Tuesday’s post about comfort over fashion, I was thinking about how having a chronic illness has changed the way I dress. It’s odd to think of, but there are things that I used to wear that I no longer can.

For instance, I can’t wear playsuits or jumpsuits or any kind of one-piece trouser outfit. With crohns, sometimes you have to… hustle… to the bathroom, and all in one’s are not your friend when you’re in need of the toilet urgently.

I do still wear dresses, but now they tend to be on the floatier side. I used to love a bodycon dress and have always had a figure that I enjoy showing off, but I find bodycon so restrictive these days. I tend to veer towards skater styles or anything with a fuller skirt. And dresses are great in terms of bathrooms – even if I’ve got tights on, it’s a breeze to whip them down, hitch my skirt up and do my thing. Sorry for the graphic description, but that’s how it is!

It’s the same with skirts as with dresses for me – floaty or I won’t bother. I am a fan of the midi skirt with narrow pleats that seems to be a staple every season, with only the colours and fabrics varying. Those go with anything, and you can wear them year round.

The waistband of whatever I’m wearing is definitely a consideration too. If I’m between two sizes, I will go up a size because I cannot stand stuff pressing on my stomach. I try to find clothes that have a waistband with some ‘give’ – not necessarily elasticated, but not one that doesn’t budge either. My jeans choice these days is something with a bit of ‘give’ too. Luckily M&S have got me covered there, and they’re the only place to go for jeans, although my jeggings from New Look are great too and have a ton of ‘give’ where I need it. I can’t handle traditional denim anymore. It’s too stiff and uncomfortable on my body.

The fabrics I choose are very much on the softer side these days too. Like I mentioned on Tuesday’s post, I can often be found feeling clothes, because it has to feel right before I try it on.

Perhaps the biggest change to the way I dress is that I can no longer wear bras. I live in crop tops now, because I can’t stand how the clasp or wiring of a bra feels against my skin. I have tried front fastening and non-wired bras, but they’re just as uncomfortable on my skin.

Luckily after my operation last year, my boobs significantly shrunk, and I can manage with crop tops that have light support. I have a sports crop top for the gym and cycling that’s more supportive, but still not a proper bra. I don’t know if, when I’ve put a little more weight on (I am far too light right now but I’ve had far too long being ill) that I will have to start wearing a proper bra again, but we shall see.

Dressing for crohns is a balancing act. I like to look nice, but I have to consider if I can easily get whatever I’m wearing down or off for bathroom emergencies. I have to consider how things feel on my skin. I never dreamed that I would ever have to think of these things, but I do.

If any of you readers have a chronic illness let me know in the comments if you’ve had to change the way you dressed after your diagnosis.


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